Year – 2020
Client – FidFund Management SA
Competition – 6st Prize
Location – Neuchâtel, Switzerland
GPS – 46º59’13.4''N 6º54’25.4''W
Site Area | Area – 17.432sq.m | 17.432sq.m
Budget – 43.000.000,00 CHF
Partners – Albuquerque Goinhas, Cristina de Mendonça, Nuno Griff
Project Team – Maria João Ferradosa, Marion Gouges, Rui Neto
Landscape Architecture – BALDIOS (Catarina Raposo, Joana Marques, Pedro Gusmão, Samuel Alcobia)
3D Visualisation – Fundamental visuals
The site of the new residential area of Beauregard-Dessus appears as an oasis in the urban fabric of the city of Neuchâtel, characterised by a strong green presence in the form of the remnants of an old vineyard. This urban exception can be seen as collateral damage, produced by urban expansion which has been slow to consolidate. The architect Ignasi de Solà-Morales defines these exceptions with great clarity: "A vague space, difficult to understand in the collective perception of the citizens, normally constitutes a rupture in the urban fabric. But it is also an available space, full of expectations, with a strong urban memory, and with a singular potential: the space of the possible, of the future"(1), invoking the double meaning of the word vague: an empty, unoccupied space, but also a latent space with multiple possibilities.
The implementation of such a housing programme (190 apartments) runs the risk of creating an excessively dense and monolithic structure that is spatially exclusive. However, if we move away from the model which has characterised the urban fabric of Neuchâtel since the second half of the 20th century, in which the city progresses over the vineyards and open spaces, and instead seek to integrate these voids and express the potential contained in these expectant spaces in the manner of a "terrain vague", both the city and the programme gain coherence and take on a new meaning.
The intervention strategy therefore consists of highlighting the existing void through the creation of a garden that shapes it, articulating its topography with the urban environment. The new fragment of the city is detached from the ground and relates to the park in the manner of a forest: the stilts settle into the ground like tree trunks and the dwellings rise up to become canopies.
This action generates three fundamental situations: firstly, the creation of a new public garden for the city, representing an important asset in the realisation of a new residential area; secondly, the importance of spatial continuity at ground level without barriers, allowing all spaces to be qualified by detaching private space from the ground; thirdly and finally, the exploitation of a system of views towards the lake and the mountains.
The singular position of the site and the history of Neuchâtel have nourished and set the tone for the urban and architectural approach adopted in the proposal, both in the spatial continuity of the site as a green corridor and in the elevation of the new buildings. The latter pays homage to the emblematic prehistoric pile dwellings which underpin the origins and development of early Alpine societies.
During this process, an intriguing thought occurred to us: could these lake settlements have had an impact on the thinking of young Charles-Édouard Jeanneret? Could it be that this modernist pioneer was after all “imitating” these prehistoric “stilt houses”?
1. Ignasi de Sola-Morales, “Terrain Vague”, Anyplace, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1995